Misunderstandings mire Kosovo representation agreement

16/03/2012

Pristina and Belgrade are interpreting the agreement on Kosovo's representation in different ways.

By Muhamet Brajshori and Bojana Milovanovic for Southeast European Times in Pristina and Belgrade -- 16/03/12

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The agreement reached in Brussels says that Kosovo* is the only denomination to be used within the framework of regional co-operation. [Laura Hasani/SETimes]

Conflicting interpretations of the agreement on Kosovo's representation in the region sparked a Kosovo delegation to leave the Regional Conference on Co-operation of Civil Societies in the Western Balkans and Turkey, which was held in Belgrade on Thursday (March 15th).

The same dispute caused a Belgrade delegation to leave a gathering at the Regional Council for Co-operation in Sarajevo earlier in the week.

At issue is the country's nameplate -- Kosovo's was written as "Kosovo*" at the Belgrade conference, with the footnote reading "This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence."

Pristina says the footnote on Kosovo should be mentioned just in agreements and official documents, and nameplates should read simply "Kosova". This further complicates the issue, as Pristina's version of the agreement spells the country's name in Albanian, something that Belgrade does not agree to.

The agreement reached in Brussels last month says that "Kosovo*" is the denomination to be used within the framework of regional co-operation.

Serbian negotiation team head Borislav Stefanovic said that talks are under way to solve the problems.

"The agreement must be observed. I expect that the government will swiftly decide how Serbian representatives will act at regional assemblies," Stefanovic told the Belgrade media.

Serbian Foreign Ministry officials said the delegation that left the Sarajevo meeting acted according to the government's instructions for cases when a Kosovo delegation is not represented as agreed.

Pristina, however, said that Serbia violated article 2 and 4 of the agreement in accordance with its role as mediator and guarantor of the agreements to undertake all necessary actions to guarantee the implementation in practice of the agreements.

Alber Gashi, an EU expert at the European and Turkey Policy Institute told SETimes that it is not just a technical problem.

"The main problem is that there is no specific mention of how name plates should be written, and the agreement is very unclear in this regards, thus leaves the way open to different interpretations," Gashi told SETimes.

The EU should have a more active role in the implementation of agreements, he said.

"There are no clear mechanisms on how the EU will ensure implementation. Right now, they [EU officials] leave it up to the goodwill of both sides," Gashi said.

Kreshnik Miftari from the Centre for Strategic Studies told SETimes that the recent problems with the Serbian elections are provoking hard stances from Pristina and Belgrade.

"Kosovo and Serbia are now in the most difficult conflict since last summer, and both sides are keen to take hard stances to enforce their language towards the developments," Miftari said.

He says that this misunderstanding on details of the agreement is the fault of the EU.

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"While some might blame Belgrade or Pristina, the only side to be blamed is the EU which has not considered this issue. Now that both sides are in a conflict over the elections, this misunderstanding just enforces the rhetoric," Miftari said.

Kosovo's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of justice, Hajredin Kuci, told KTV that the EU should take measures to ensure the implementation.

He has left open the possibility for Kosovo to leave the talks if Serbia continues to not perform its obligations and the EU to be silent without exerting pressure.

"We will take our actions. If they continue with such a policy it will reflect on [our] relations with Serbia," said Kucii.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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